Mike Mussina is Emblematic of What's Wrong with the Yankees


Written on 5:11 PM by Jack B.

Mike "Moose" Mussina is one of the biggest class acts in baseball and for over a decade has been one of the best pictures in the American League. He is also in my opinion a picture with great stuff who has only done very good numbers with it. He is someone who has performed below his abilities ever since he got to the Yankees and in that sense is symbolic of what's wrong with the whole franchise. They are a team with great talent but with little to show for it.

When "Moose" first joined the Yankees it was after a decade being the ace of the Baltimore Orioles pitching staff. He was just 30 years old and entering into what should have been his prime pitching years. He had just come off a run with the Orioles where in 9 years (his rookie season doesn't count since he only pitched in 12 games) head two 19-win seasons, two 18-win seasons and seasons with 14, 15 and 16 wins. But even though he has been the most dependable pitcher on the ever-changing Yankee staff since he got here, he just hasn't been as good as he could be (for whatever reason).

And believe me, Mussina can be good. No, make that great. When his stuff is working he's unhittable - literally. I remember the game a couple of years ago against the Red Sox on ESPN where he carried a perfect game into the 9th inning with 2 outs in before Carl Everett got a lightly-hit single to break it up. That night, you could tell no one was beating Mussina, and if you were watching him you would have ranked him among the elite pitchers in all of baseball. Then, on other nights Moose gets hit hard and early (even by bad teams) and you would think he was a whole different pitcher. You might as well turn the game off if that happens because unless the Yankees have their hitting shoes on for a night, the game is over in the 1st or 2nd inning. How to explain it? I don't know. I doubt Mussina knows either. Which pretty much sums up what's going on with what passes for most of Yankee baseball of late.

Mussina is now 35 years old. He has 219 wins and probably more to come. But given his pitching ability he should have had at least a couple 20-win seasons under his belt, closer to 250 wins and making a run for 300. That's not going to happen though. Moose has since he came to New York has been just good and "good"(to put it bluntly) is not enough. That's been the trouble with the Yankees - from 1996 to 2000 they were a great team who played great ball but from 2001-2005 they have just been a potentially great team who played good enough to win and no more. That's why they couldn't beat the D-Backs, why they couldn't beat the Marlins, couldn't beat the Angels and couldn't close the door on the BoSox. The other teams played above and beyond their capabilities - the Yankees and their $200 million payroll just played...period.

I'm not trying to blame Mike Mussina here. It's not his fault the Yankees haven't won. If anything, since he came here he's been the rock of the starting staff, even when he wasn't the ace he was the one the team could depend on. But dependable does not greatness make. Moose is a great pitcher with a very good career. Jack Morris, by contrast, was a very good picture with a great career. The difference? It can be counted in world championship rings and how the player performs when the spotlight is on them.

Therein lies the problem with the present-day Yankees. Boss George may agonize along with every other Yankee fan but there is very little Brian Cashman, Joe Torre, Mel Stottlemeyer or Don Mattingly can do.

The horses, so to speak, are already there - they're just not running. Sometimes they fool us by running a good leg or quarter mile, but when it hits the wire they always place or show, never win. It's not a question of stamina - it's a question of fire, of will, of drive. I'm sure Mike Mussina would says he's always full of drive and the rest of the Yankees would say the same. But he could be so much better than he's been...and so could his team.

Haiku #23


Written on 7:33 AM by Jack B.

Sunlight touches skin
Basking and glowing in warmth
Of much better days

Signs That I Have No Life - ABC's "Dancing with the Stars"


Written on 10:01 PM by Jack B.

I just spent two hours of my life watching Dancing with the Stars on ABC. I also did watched it last week and the week before that...and I'm not even into dancing.

As of tonight there are only two teams left - John O'Hurley and Charlotte Jorgensen and Kelly Monaco and Alec Mazo. I'm not sure who's going to win - John/Charlotte are the better dancers but Kelly/Alec seem to have be more popular with the fans (which just goes to show never underestimate the fan support of a soap star like Kelly - anyone who's on TV at least times a week like she is on General Hospital already has a buit-in audience).

Personally, my rule of thumb is that when push comes to shove -

Always bet on

the former Playboy Playmate


the former Game Show Host

P.S. My sister says "the gray-haired guy" (as she calls him) is going to win but I'm hoping for Kelly - she's waaaay cuter (yes I am that shallow, thank you very much)

Tom-tom Returns to His Planet of Origin on Eve of Film’s Debut


Written on 9:25 PM by Jack B.

P.S. Doesn't Dakota looks scared as heck that Xenu/Martians are going to take her away with them? Tom-tom on the other looks kinda excited.
Edited to add: Karen Hall at Some Have Hats has a great rumor making the rounds in Hollywood (where she's a long time show biz pro) about the Scientologists efforts to find Tom-tom a "wife". Katie, needless to say, wasn't the first name on the list.

I Have No Idea What This Is Supposed To Be


Written on 8:51 PM by Jack B.

Yet I can't stop looking at it

World's Shortest Personality Test


Written on 8:08 PM by Jack B.

You are elegant, withdrawn, and brilliant.
Your mind is a weapon, able to solve any puzzle.
You are also great at poking holes in arguments and common beliefs.

For you, comfort and calm are very important.
You tend to thrive on your own and shrug off most affection.
You prefer to protect your emotions and stay strong.

Haiku #22


Written on 7:32 PM by Jack B.

Coward was the cat
That stole the canary's cream
And then fled the scene

The Yankees Have Officially Become Unwatchable


Written on 12:33 AM by Jack B.

After last night's 5-4 loss in extra innings there's truly nothing more to be said. Anything Boss George Steinbrenner does to this team (release players, fire coaches, fire Cashman, tear apart the team, etc.) is well deserved at this point. If they were the Pirates or the Brewers I could understand a .500 team but when you're a $200 million dollar team with several all-stars in both the offense and pitching, this is unacceptable.

And what's worse they're losing badly...and sloppily. This is supposed to be the major leagues, this is supposed to be Yankees baseball, not the Bad News Bears. When the error occurred in the 8th that let Baltimore tie the game off Gordon I just turned off the TV - I knew it would be the Orioles who end up winning the game. Five years ago, it would have been the Yankees who would have bounced back - but those days are gone. It's time to clean the decks and cut some of the dead weight (which means starting with every reliever except Mariano and every starter except Mussina).

Scientology’s Catholic Guilt


Written on 11:16 PM by Jack B.

Interesting blurb in Radar Online dealing with the virulent anti-catholicism of L. Ron Hubbard, founder of Scientology:

Before Katie Holmes’ devoutly Catholic parents officially sign their daughter over to the Church of Scientology, they might want to get in touch with Philip J. Spickler. One of Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard’s original disciples, Spickler is the father of Mimi Rogers, Tom Cruise’s first wife and the person responsible for recruiting him into the cult in the mid-’80s.

Like his daughter—who, at her most pious, worked for the Church full-time—Spickler has since left Scientology. Unlike his daughter—who spent last week on the talk-show circuit spinning her ex’s increasingly unhinged behavior—he has quite a bit to say about the sect.

Of particular note to Martin and Kathleen Holmes might be Spickler’s firsthand account of L. Ron Hubbard’s virulent anti-Catholicism. Although Scientology publicly portrays itself as compatible with Christianity, in one of a series of emails he has written to friends and associates since his defection, Spickler writes that Hubbard “often referred to the Pope as ‘Dr. Pious,’ and the priests as his ‘witchwater boys.’”

In addition, Spickler writes, Hubbard ironically dismissed Catholicism as a “very successful operation to control the spirit, minds, and bodies of those who fell under its thrall before they attained an age where they could reason and discriminate and choose for themselves.”

Unfortunately, the ex-Scientologist could not be reached by press time for his perspective on the newly affianced couple, and a rep for Rogers—who traded her cult membership for a prominent seat on the celebrity poker circuit—did not return calls for comment
Can it be an accident that so many Scientologists are ex-Catholics - Tom Cruise (and his entire family), John Travolta, Kirstie Alley, Jenna Elfman, etc. Not to mention every female that Tom-tom has hooked up with in the last 15 years - Nicole Kidman, Penelope Cruz and Katie Holmes are from Catholic familes. What is it about this freaky-deaky cult that makes people who believe in Jesus all of sudden believe in Xenu?

Meanwhile the Scientologists claim you can still belong to the "Church" of Scientology and be a Catholic (or anything else for that matter as well) :
The Church of Scientology acknowledges a supreme being but does not define God or consider God an essential part of the religion, according to Ms. Stanard, the church publicist in Washington. "We believe in a supreme being but how one worships or creates a relationship with that being is an individual matter," she said. "We are not dogmatic in this respect." The open-ended view of God means that Scientology does not contradict any other religious tradition and that people of all faiths can practice Scientology, Ms. Stanard said. "As Scientology deals with a person as a spiritual being, a person can be a member of another church as well as a Scientologist," she said.

Mike Delaware, an executive secretary of the church in Battle Creek, Mich., described Scientology as "all-denominational." Many people who become Scientologists stay active in other faith communities, he said, adding that if Katie Holmes joins the Church of Scientology, there is no reason she could not continue to be a practicing Roman Catholic.

Sure, sure...and if you believe that I've got a bridge I can sell you. Have you seen a Scientologist celebrity yet who was dedicated to anything but their L. Ron Hubbard inspired "Church"? If you can be a Catholic and a Scientologist at the same time then why did Nicole Kidman have so much trouble in wanting to raise her kids Catholic?

Rich Leonardi had the best response to this claim by the Scientologists in Amy Welborn's comments section: "So as long as you believe the earth was founded by an alien race whose spirits dwell among us still, you can retain your quaint religious traditions. Got it. "

Another good right-on-target comment on this whole mess is Maureen Martin in her catholicnews.org blog:Editorial: My Cult of Choice

Believe me, if you are going to be Catholic and join a cult, wouldn't it make more sense to join Jenny Craig? At the end, you are going to look so much better. What would you rather be - clear or thin? And isn't that what life is all about - looking your best, being thin, and having money so you can flaunt it in front of others and make yourself feel superior? Of course it is! That's the Catholic American way. You can be Catholic and be extremely successful, happy and fulfilled in this life, too. Skip all that suffering stuff. That is just for saints in dusty hardback books. You need to treat yourself right, pamper yourself, and look good. That's your vocation, obviously, since you enjoy it (and of course, we are only called to things we enjoy). Cultivating virtues takes a long time, if even possible. Instead, let's find ways to throw aside the crosses that weigh us down in this life. We'll be happier we did.

This is Beyond Retro


Written on 10:29 PM by Jack B.

Perfect for people who still haven't figured out how to set their VCR clock.

Well, there goes that idea...


Written on 10:15 PM by Jack B.

I'd always had the thought that should my life come to an untimely end I'd like to be frozen. Not really because I expect they could bring me back years from now but because the thought of turning into literal worm and slug food and decaying into nothingness is a bit unsettling (to say the least) as is the alternative of being cremated and becoming nothing more than ashes (like the kind you see when you burn newspaper or something), not to mention the fact that when you're in that furnace apparently the head explodes instead of just burning to a crisp first. Ewwww. So I thought I'd be frozen and avoid all that messiness (though since I'll be dead and everything I doubt I would feel anything). But apparently cryogenics (the "science" of freezing people) is all bunk and horse hooey. Darn it.

Well at least there's hope for zombie dogs.

The Eye of the Dark Lord?


Written on 10:09 PM by Jack B.

No apparently its not Sauron, the Lord of the Rings and ruler of Mordor, but a cosmic ring composed of dust particles orbiting a star 25 light years away from us - it was picked up by the Hubble telescope, one of the few things our government has done that was worth every penny spent on it.

Haiku #21


Written on 7:31 PM by Jack B.

I linger too long
Thinking of unfufilled dreams
But doing nothing

Haiku #20


Written on 7:30 PM by Jack B.

In Old Richmond's grave
Lie his rotten, grimy bones
For eternity

Is this objective journalism or an opinion piece?


Written on 12:36 AM by Jack B.

That's the question I ask myself about this BBC piece Catholic woman in secret ordination by Julian Pettifer. It was part of the BBC 4 radio show "Crossing Continents".

Here's the full story with my comments in red:

A woman has been ordained as a priest in a secret ceremony in central Europe as an act of defiance against the Roman Catholic Church.

First of all, she wasn't ordained a priest or anything. "The Roman Catholic Church" doesn't recognize any of it, it doesn't even recognize the Anglican male priests, let alone female "priests" of any kind.

The woman who was "ordained" does not want to be identified. Three years ago, the Vatican moved decisively against an international movement for the ordination ofwomen when it excommunicated the so-called Danube Seven. Seven women had claimed the status of priests after a form of ordination ceremony held on a boat moored on the river Danube. Now a similar ceremony has taken place in a private chapel in central Europe. BBC Radio 4's Crossing Continents Crossing Europe witnessed the event but only on condition the programme does not reveal the exact location or the identity of the young woman. The unofficial ordination comes just two months after the inauguration of Pope Benedict XVI who is known for his traditional views. In the case of the Danube Seven, it was Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger - now Pope Benedict - who declared that since the women gave no indication of repentance "for the most serious offence they have committed, they have incurred excommunication". But his stern admonitions have been ignored. Among those conducting the ordination the BBC witnessed, were women from the Danube Seven who now describe themselves as bishops.

Oh, how did they get to be "bishops"? Because they say they are? Can any old Catholic priest call themself a bishop. I don't think so. And what exactly makes Pope Bendedict "traditional" - I mean really, what views does he hold that the 260+ previous Popes didn't?

The most recent ceremony took place in an improvised chapel in the
upper room of a private house. The woman will not be able publicly to admit to her priestly status Only about a dozen men and women attended the ceremony including those conducting it. The programme was told the ceremony and the words used were almost identical to those laid down by the Roman Catholic Church, including a number of vows taken by the ordinand, promising to take on the responsibilities of priesthood. Before the service, the young woman at the centre of it all spoke about her act of defiance. She admitted it worried her, but said: "I hope that in five years, in 10 years, things will change because there are many women who would like to go the same way, and the way will be a little better prepared for them". She said she did not wish to be identified because she feared losing her job teaching religious education.

Yeah, she is soooo defiant and yet she makes you promise not to tell anyone or else she'll lose her job. Such bravery against that evil Pope Benedict guy. What a martyr for her "cause" this priest-ess is, huh?

She was not able to explain why it was worth going through all this, when at the end of the day, she would still be unable legitimately to perform any of the duties of a priest or even admit to her alleged priestly status. We must assume it was primarily an act of protest.

Who is "we", Mr. Pettifer? Don't you mean YOU "assume". And how brilliant is that assumption. Doesn't exactly take a rocket scientist to figure it out. But don't you think a real journalist, if they really think this is merely an "act of protest", would confront the person protesting about it. But not here apparently.

That impression was confirmed by talking to Patricia, one of those conducting the ceremony, who had been ordained in a similar way. Patricia has impeccable Catholic credentials. For 45 years she was a Dominican sister, nun and an academic, who trained with men destined for the priesthood. An unjust law need not be adhered to Patricia, an "ordained" Catholic"My first feeling was: I'm doing the same study as the men, and I'm being excluded from the priesthood. It's so damned unfair," she said. Patricia's staunch opinions are informed by her background. She grew up in South Africa under apartheid laws that denied black people their human rights "and one of the ways to break an unjust law is to break it", she said. I put it to her that the Church would argue that you may not challenge God's law. But Patricia insisted there is nothing in scripture to exclude women from the priesthood: "It's a human law, a Church law, and this has been changed a number of times over the centuries. And an unjust law need not be adhered to."

Last time I checked the Church was not a democracy, people don't make "laws" by majority vote. Nor is the Church mandatory to belong to - you don't like the "laws" then leave. Plenty of other places around. But I did like Mr. Pettifer's bringing up "Sister" Patricia's (is she still a "sister" even if she calls herself a priest?) background in apartheid Africa - a not-so-subtle inference that the Church itself is commiting an apartheid of its own. So much for objectivity.

I put some of these arguments to the President of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications in Rome, Archbishop John Paul Foley. He first of all stated that the ceremony of ordination we had witnessed was "not just illicit but invalid". When I also put it to him that it is unfair to exclude women from the priesthood, he argued: "As a man I cannot conceive... is that unfair? By divine decision... there is this difference." The archbishop continued that just as it is biologically impossible for a man to conceive, it is theologically impossible for a woman to be a priest.

Aren't you glad it was he actually asked the archbishop some confrontational, contrary questions? Where exactly was this hardball style with the female "priests"? And isn't saying it was "unfair to exclude women from the priesthood" a value judgement on the reporter's part. After all, the Catholic Church isn't the only religious entity, nor even the only Christian denomination to not have female clergy. How come they don't have to answer that question? And how come they are all wrong in Mr. Pettifer's eyes? He's already stated the "ordinations" he's witnessed is mostly about "defiance" and not spirituality or the role of the priesthood (Holy Orders is one of the 7 Catholic sacraments), how come Mr. Pettifer's doesn't ask these female "priests" he's interviewed why they are making the priesthood a political act and not a spiritual one?

The day following the "ordination", I attended mass at a local church and talked to the congregation about women priests. I made no mention of the ceremony I had witnessed, but every person questioned, male and female, young and old, said they would welcome women into the Roman Catholic priesthood. When I put this to Archbishop Foley, he said: "I don't think you win a war by surrender. The question is, what did Jesus want? What did he reveal? And what does the Church authoritatively teach? "That's the norm by which we must judge, not by opinion polls."

The Archbishop is exactly correct. Who exactly wants a religion run on opinion polls? Who could take such a religion seriously? Yet thats apparently how Mr. Pettifer says. A bunch of people he polls says one thing so thats what the Church should do. So how exactly is this piece honest or objective? It isn't. Mr. Pettifer obviously comes from this article as supporting women's ordination even though he knows that the motives behind some of these "ordinations" aren't exactly pure. The real question is if this is supposed to be an opinion piece (in which case I would have no problem with it) or an objective piece of journalism (in which it fails, and fails badly).

Is this Headline a Freudian Slip?


Written on 12:10 AM by Jack B.

If you ask almost anyone, from politicians to doctors to even Planned Parenthood, the so-called "morning after pill" is not an abortificient. If you call it that they say you are not saying the truth and that you are misleading the public. According to the people who wish to make it available with or without a prescription over the counter and mandatory in hospitals (even Catholic ones), it is thoroughly wrong to equate the "morning-after pill" with either surgical abortion or the "abortion pill" RU-486.

So keeping that in mind how does one read this headline from the NY DAILY NEWS (which is not considered a "conservative" paper at all): Abort pill bill heads to gov.

THEY call it an "abortion" pill! The pro-pill person they quote is even from NARAL (the National Abortion Rights Action League). Now if the "morning-after pill" really has nothing to do with abortion and is not itself an abortificient, why call it that in the headline? And why get a quote from a group whose main focus is abortion (so much thats even in the name of their group)? Was this a does of honesty from the mainstream media or did someone screw up here (it could be both I suppose).

Hat tip to The Curt Jester for the link.

One Good Turn Deserves Another


Written on 9:31 PM by Jack B.

Carmel at Winterr's words introduced me to this talented artist named Julian Beever and his three-dimensional pavement drawings. He's very good. I'd love to see some of that art in person.

So I thought I'd introduce one of my favorite artistic "discoveries" (to those who don't know her at least), Linda Joyce Franks. She doesn't like people posting her art on websites without her permission (perfectly understandable - she worked hard to create the art to make a living) so I recommend following this link to her website:

Linda Joyce Franks

I advise to take a look around. I'm also adding the tag to my links on the right. She's pretty incredible. If I get a little extra cash in the upcoming months I really want to buy her "Angelique" print. It's much better than the Garfield posters I use to hang on the walls.

My 3rd Tom-Tom Post in a Week


Written on 7:26 PM by Jack B.

I swear this is getting out of hand. Can a day go by without this nutcase making news? Tom Cruise has entered Michael Jackson stage of celebrity weirdness. Except in Michael's case he's been "Wacko Jacko" for decades now while Tom Cruise has morphed over night into from of the biggest movie-stars in the world to one of the biggest head-cases.

Here's the now infamous exchange with Matt Lauer on the "Today" show, via a very apt (and funny) pictorial version of it by blogger Michelle Collins at You Can't Make It Up (which I found via Amy Welborn)

And here's a commentary by Alessandra Stanley in the NY Times that further show why that paper is losing its relevancy - it has no idea what "real" people are thinking. Entitled Talk Show Rarity: A True Believer's Candor here's an excerpt:

Mr. Cruise seemed unbound, and perhaps even a little unsound, but there was something enjoyably bracing and bold about his outburst. It was as jarring as his crazy-in-love ode to the actress Katie Holmes on Oprah Winfrey's show last month, and that was perhaps the most e-mailedvideo clip since the Howard Dean Scream. But this latest display of kookiness lent the actor new credibility: his over-the-top declarations of love may look to some like a publicity stunt, but there was nothing self-serving or career-enhancing about his rant with Mr. Lauer.

"Credibility". Ms. Stanley, with all due respect - are you as nuts as Tom-tom? Cruise's uncalled for insults to Brooke Shields (and by association anyone who takes/took anti-depressants), gratuituous making-out with his recent (and mysteriously aquired) 26-old girlfriend, and his stuff his bizarro religion down the throats of anyone on his film sets has just about ruined whatever "credibility" he once had. He should be taking those mood stablizing drugs he so abhors. And this is not either "enjoyably bracing and bold" either. Tom's "fiancee" has shown all the symptoms of being brainwashed by a cult while he is behaving like the middle-aged man he is going through some kind of mid-life crisis in public. This is sad and a little scary but not "enjoyable". I didn't give two thoughts about Mr. Mapother IV until he started with this bizarre behavior and now I just want him to go away (perhaps get some counseling from those psychatrists he rails against). The personal lives of celebrities don't usually interest me and there are some things I'd just rather not hear about...or see for that matter.

Meanwhile Beliefnet.com has posted two interesting articles on this.
One is a focuses on what a possible Scientology wedding might look like and the other is an interview with a religion professor on what Scientology is.

The World Pascal Made


Written on 7:18 PM by Jack B.

Interesting article in Australia' s The Age by Peter Craven on one of the most brilliant minds mankind has ever produced as well as one of the most eloquent writers on God and Christianity in the Western World - Blaise Pascal (who has always been a favorite of mine even if he was a Jansenist).

Haiku #19


Written on 7:29 PM by Jack B.

Picked a dying rose
It fell apart in my hand
Singing its requiem

My Body Clock Is Being a Bad Boy


Written on 12:21 AM by Jack B.

I meant to blog on a lot of stuff this week and didn't (the Cruise/Holmes things don't count because that bizarre-ness has just been writing itself). The problem for me is that my body hasn't settled in a normal sleeping pattern yet.

The main difference between graduate school and being an undergraduate (besides from tests, papers, research, etc.) is that the grad courses are much worse to handle, time-wise. There are no "electives" here, there are things you have to take and you have to take them in a certain order and most of theses classes are at night (since most grad students are working professionals). So often I find myself working 6-9 hours at my job during the day and then rushing to class - which usually doesn't end till after 8 o'clock PM. So by the time I get home its close to 10 PM and I have work again the next morning/afternoon. I've got to go to sleep, right? Wrong.

This would be the time - from 10 to somewhere around 2 or 3 in the AM that I would do my reading, prepare my papers, and still my heavy-duty research (grad school is mostly research, I've found). This is also the time I usually work on my blog. So obviously you can count on the fingers of one hand how many hours I actually get during the school semester itself.

Yet strangely enough the body adapts. After a few weeks you get use to the schedule and don't find yourself too tired or exhausted (about a pot of black coffee a night also helps). The problem now is that the Spring semester is over. It ended at the beginning of this month - but my body clock has still not adjusted. I still find myself staying up all night until the wee hours of the morning. How I can occupy my time without school work I don't know. Usually I listen to talk radio or watch old movies on cable. The hours I formerly spent in class are now dedicated to the social life that is (for me) non-existent during the school year. Somehow because my body clock is screwed up, when I didn't have the time I could blog and now when I do have the time I can't seem to.

Why this is I have no idea, and I've almost given up hope of fixing it or wondering if I even should. After all, if one is going to be an insomoniac night owl then New York ("the city that never sleeps" as the saying goes) is just the right place for it. And school begins again in just two months anyway.

So if I don't blog, its not because I have nothing to say about X, Y or Z. More like its because my biological timer is out of whack and I don't know if I'm coming or going. Kind of like right now, as a matter of fact.

Haiku #18 - Because things could be worse


Written on 12:27 AM by Jack B.

Sometimes life just stinks
What's the point of going on?
I say to myself

Then I remember
Clams haven't brainwashed me yet
I'm no Katie Holmes

The Gift That Keeps on Giving


Written on 9:36 PM by Jack B.

Picture via Gallery of the Absurd which I found via Truth, Beauty, Love, and Elisa.

The epic saga of Thomas Cruise Mapother IV and his fiancee, Katie Holmes continues. Now we have the news that Katie "disappeared for 16 days" in April and when she came back for air, she had dumped two of her best friends, and her manager and her agent and got a "new best friend" (who just happened to be a big Scientology supporter) and fell in "love" with Tom Cruise (Mr. Clambake himself)

The time line goes something like this:

Holmes was busy during that first week in April. On April 7, she was photographed at the Fragrance Foundation's FiFi event. Four days later, Holmes was still in New York and was photographed at VH1's "Save the Music" concert. She still had not met Cruise. Sometime that week, her friends say,she flew to Los Angeles for a meeting with Cruise about a role in "Mission:Impossible 3." The meeting took place after April 11. The next time anyone heard from Holmes was on April 27, when she appeared in public as Cruise's girlfriend and love of his life.Where was she during those 16 days?

Somewhere during that time, she decided to fire both her manager and agent, each of whom she had been with for years and who were devoted to her.The manager, John Carrabino, also handles Renée Zellweger and is beloved by his clients.

Holmes also acquired a new best friend, Jessica Feshbach, the daughter of Joe Feshbach, a controversial Palo Alto, Calif., bond trader. The Feshbach family, according to published documents, has donated millions to the Church of Scientology. Jessica's aunt even runs a Scientology center in Florida.According to Richard Behar's now famous 1991 story in Time magazine about Scientology, the Feshbachs were the subject of congressional hearings in 1989. Behar wrote: "The heads of several companies claimed that Feshbach operatives have spread false information to government agencies and posed in various guises — such as a Securities and Exchange Commission official — in an effort to discredit the companies and drive the stocks down. "Michael Russell, who ran a chain of business journals, testified that a Feshbach employee called his bankers and interfered with his loans. Sometimes the Feshbachs send private detectives to dig up dirt on firms, which is then shared with business reporters, brokers and fund managers."

There is some fear among Holmes' close circle that her
instant romance with Cruise is not as organic as portrayed.
For one thing, Holmes was raised a strict Catholic. Also, gone from the picture are two close Holmes friends who used to be with her when she did publicity for a film.
One of these is Meghann Birie, a childhood friend who has suddenly disappeared from Holmes' world. Another, a local TV producer here in New York, was too afraid to discuss the situation with me.

We know that Cruise auditioned several actresses for this role before settling on Holmes. This column reported a story about Jennifer Garner. There have been published stories about Kate Bosworth, Lindsay Lohan and Jessica Alba being approached.A newer one involves Scarlett Johansson, who ran for her life when presented with a fait accompli dinner at the Scientology Celebrity Centre in Hollywood.

And history has been rewritten since the April 27 unveiling. Curiously, since the Cruise-Holmes situation popped up, we have heard over and over again that Cruise was the young actress' idol when she was growing up.That's certainly interesting because all of the publicity that used to run on Holmes — still found all over the Internet — lists another Tom as her favorite actor. That would be Tom Hanks.

Personally, I find this frightening stuff. I mean, the kind of stuff people stage an intervention for or hire a cult de-programmer. Cause this stuff? Truly is cultlike. I mean I know they think of themselves as a religion but I'm not quite sure of any mainstream religion that takes you away from the people you know and grow up, give you "handlers" to make sure you stay in line, purposely seeks to recruit famous celebrities and not Joe Blow in the street (who couldn't afford their "auditing" fees), copyright their religious texts and sues into bankruptcy anyone who dares says anything bad about them (now I wonder if they will sue me for writing that?). And the most bizarre part from my point of view is that they're following some hokey mumbo jumbo made up by L. Ron Hubbard. I mean Harlan Ellison, I would give a listen to. Robert Heinlein, I could understand. But L. Ron Hubbard? Please, the guy was average (if that). At least Buddha found Nirvana and Jesus walked on water. What did L. Ron Hubbard do other than write the book that one of the worst movies of all time, Battlefield Earth: A Saga of the Year 3000, was based on. I mean, seriously, who watches that movie (if anybody ever actually did) and says to themselves: "L. Ron, you are my GOD!".

This is some crazy (in a bad way) stuff - if I was one of Katie Holmes's loved ones I'd spirit her away from Tom-tom and her "handlers" the first chance I got.

Meanwhile if you're still not convinced that that something freaky-deeky is going on with Tom-tom, take a look at this clip.

Haiku #17


Written on 7:26 PM by Jack B.

Day two of Summer
And it rained. Rained very hard.
Damn those weathermen!

The Biggest and the Best


Written on 4:05 PM by Jack B.

You Are From Saturn

You're steady, organizes, and determined to achieve your dreams.
You tend to play it conservative, going by the rules (at least the practical ones).
You'll likely reach the top. And when you do, you'll be honorable and responsible.
Focus on happiness. Don't let your goals distract you from fun!
Don't be too set in your ways, and you'll be more of a success than you ever dreamed of.

Speaking of Mr. Cruise and Ms. Holmes


Written on 8:20 PM by Jack B.

So now has Tom Cruise announced his engagement to Katie Holmes. What a surprise...NOT! Tom-tom would have us believe that this is relationship is a real one except I (like so many others, it seems) can't find myself believing that for several reasons:

a) The only people who publicize every single moment in their relationships (including announcing the details of asking the woman to marry you on Eiffel Tower within moments of doing said action) are famewhores and insano in the membrano actors. Which ones Tom & Katie are I'll leave to you.

b) How convienent this "relationship" only becomes public (and then when it does it is in the papers every single day) only when both parties involved have big summer movies to promote

c) If Katie Holmes is really the love of Tom's life and he was dying to meet her, why the heck did he ask 4 other younger and more famous starlets to be his "girlfriend" first?

d) Why does Katie Holmes need a Scientology "handler" if she's totally with the program? And why after dating and being engaged to actor Chris Klein for 5 years (their 2 year engagement only being called off in March - 3 months ago - of 2005), does she agree not only to marry Tom-tom but convert from life-long Catholicism to Xenu worship?

Seriously, what is the matter with a man who needs a woman on his arm at all times? What is he trying to prove? Just think - from 1987 to 1990 he was married Mimi Rogers, then from 1990 to 2001 he was married to Nicole Kidman (who he met on the set of Days of Thunder) and a few months of filing for divorce from Nicole in 2001 (who said she had no idea it was coming) was dating Penelope Cruz (who he met on the set of Vanilla Sky) and then after breaking up with Penelope (maybe she didn't go along with the Scientology thing?) he stayed out of the limelight and was apparently dating nobody until all of a sudden he has a new movie coming out and then is seen with Katie Holmes (who as I mentioned just ended a long engagement this March) who he apparently had "always wanted to meet" and who he "called out of the blue". It would be more believable if he hadn't tried the same thing with Jessica Alba first and she was having none of it.

Is Katie that dumb? What the heck is she getting out of this other than a proper brainwashing? Does she really think her career is going to get a boost from this? Sure she may become more famous but she's not going to get better roles by being with Tom. Nicole Kidman didn't become an A-List Oscar Winner until she dropped his crazy behind. Right now, Katie's career trajectory has become being the friend/love interest/supporting player of the title character in a Warner Bros. teen show to being the friend/love interest/supporting player of the title character in a Warner Bros. comic book movie. Whole lot of progress there for Ms. Holmes, don't you think? And apparently Tom-tom is now picking roles for her. Not a good sign for her career, in my opinion.

But then I'm biased, ever since Tom-tom attacked Brooke Shields out of the blue for her use of anti-depressants because of post-natal depression after pregnancy I've had a real loathing of the guy. First of all he doesn't know what he's talking about with depression (I know all about anti-depressants and clinical depression since I've been there personally - which is another story) and second he's never been pregnant and thirdly he took pot-shots at her career and that...IS JUST NOT COOL. So Tom-tom can never be insulted enough in my book and I have no intention of seeing War of the Worlds even if Spielberg directed it and even if the uber-talented Dakota Fanning and Miranda Otto are also in it.

It also can't be an accident that as Tom gets older, his women get younger. Yes, his first wife Mimi Rogers was older than him but after they divorced (and after she introduced him to Scientology) he has continuously looked for young and malleable actresses with considerable less fame than him.

Nicole Kidman was born in 1967 - Tom-tom was 5 years older

Penélope Cruz was born in 1974 - Tom-tom was 12 years older

Katie Holmes was born in 1978 - Tom-tom is 16 years older

Is it too far a stretch to think that when Katie is Nicole's age at the time of their divorce (34), that Tom-tom will start trolling for a younger model, I wouldn't even be surprised if Michelle Malkin's thoughts about a future FreeDakota site is not that far off. After all Dakota may be little now but in 10 years she'll be 21 - just the age Tom-tom likes.

The best take-down of Tom-tom I've seen yet comes via Fametracker with the piece, Someone Please Shut Tom Cruise Up, Seriously

Another good one is Catawampus's Is Tom Cruise secretly a pod person? and The National Ledger's Is the Tom and Katie Engagement 'Mission Impossible?'

All 3 are a good synopsis of the freak show that has become Thomas Cruise Mapother IV.

Meanwhile on the "Holmes" front, for every freekatie.net website seeking to free Ms. Holmes from the grip of Mr. Mapother IV there is John Campea over at The Movie Blog who asks: Who Gives a Rip About Katie Holmes!?! Which when you think about is a good question - before she became Tom Cruise's girlfriend/fiancee/Trilby I didn't give a thought to her. But now I do - and its not a pleasant thought. I feel pity for her. I don't think this relationship is going to have a pleasant ending.

BATMAN BEGINS: My Review (with Spoilers)


Written on 8:11 PM by Jack B.

I went to an 11am showing today - the theater was 3/4 packed on a Friday Morning (and it was the second show of the day) so that says something about how big this is going to be. All those glowing reviews for this movie are right on, this is one movie that's actually much BETTER than the trailers for it. So here's my review, complete with spoilers (complete with one big twist at the end that I didn't see coming but in retrospect was completely obvious). If you hate that kind of thing turn away when you come to that part...

First of all let me begin by saying that in my opinion Batman Begins is now the best movie adaption of a comic book EVER (and I'm counting Spiderman I and Superman I). Warner Brothers should sign Chris Nolan and David Goyer to an eight picture deal because they more perfectly get Batman than any "Hollywood" type I've ever seen. The script was tight and fluid with no unnecessary exposition and no glaring plotholes.
I loved how things fans nitpicked like the cowl (which turned out to be too stiff and defective) and the Batmobile (which needed to be Tank-like to get out of those jams) were directly addressed. Now on the that big twist, turn away if you don't want to be spoiled...Okay, everybody else still there?....Well then let's just say that even those fans who thought Liam Neeson would have made a better Ra's than Ken Watanabe got their noses tweaked (and that's all I'm going to say about that). The killing of the DA opens the way for Harvey Dent in the second film (and Two-Face in a third). The Joe Chill reference automatically places the film out of the Burton/Schumacher universe (and it makes even Burton's films look like cartoons by comparison). Its as if Nolan and Goyer knew exactly what complaints people would have and got them out of the way.

The absolute best thing about this movie though is that its about Bruce Wayne and not "Batman". In the first 4 films we had 3 different actors play Batman and didn't matter because all that mattered was if he had a square chin. Bruce Wayne the man didn't matter. Here the opposite is true, we see Bruce more than Batman. We understand what drives him and the script's focus on the twin forces of "fear" and "justice" drove it home, as does Bruce's discovered love for being a Wayne and what that represents (in the end he decides to rebuild the burnt down Wayne Manor exactly the way it was after spending most of the movie not caring about his Wayne legacy) and as what Falcone jeeringly called "the Prince of Gotham" - we see this is his city and what he'll do to protect it. Also, the stressing of Bruce's parents especially Thomas Wayne, of their example and the imprint on Bruce and on Gotham was better done then even in the comics. We can see why he spends every waking minute trying to prevent other people from losing what he had.

Now on to the acting - Bale was great. All those who wanted him for Batman were exactly right. The brown hair threw me off at first but it was easy to see him as Bruce Wayne, playboy (and even the younger Bruce since he still has a boyish face) but I knew, I KNEW, he was Batman in the scene when the crooked cop (Gordon's partner) is bunjeed up to the rooftop and the angry sinister voice that Batman makes wanting answers (so unlike Bale's Bruce) is EXACTLY what I think Batman would sound like if he was speaking to the criminals of Gotham. Gary Oldman has once again proven why he is one of the best movie actors in the world today - the man who has made a career out of playing nuts, criminals and homicidal maniacs was pitch perfect as the most honest cop in Gotham, the world-weary blue collar middle-aged family man Jim Gordon. Michael Caine's perfomance was also proof of what is great this about this film. Caine is a big name legendary actor - in the old Batman films he would have been cast as a colorful villain (like Chris Walken) or supporting character (like Jack Palance) that would have allowed him to chew the scenery. But no, despite not looking at all like comic book Alfred, he perfectly captured the character's twin roles of both servant and surrogate father, reminding Bruce of his duty to his family and his duty to himself (and Alfred got the best lines too). Morgan Freeman and Rutger Hauer are always good in my book and Cillian Murphy, despite not looking like my idea of Dr. Crane, was suitably creepy. Tom Wilkinson tries a little too hard to disguise his Britishness by playing Falcone as Gotham's version of the stereotypical Italian crime boss and doesn't totally succeed. Katie Holmes was a kind of weak link, not because her acting was that bad (although it wasn't great either, she was just BLAH), but because the role was so dull that any talented starlet her age could have pulled it off.It didn't help that although Holmes is in her mid-20s, she still looks like a teenager and thus hard to buy as an experienced assistant DA.

Art design was wonderful. No more faux-art deco New York version of Gotham but a totally realized modern city with its own look and feel (with Wayne Tower and the Wayne family at its center) A city with both its rich and poor areas, a perfectly done urban jungle. The score by Hans Zimmer was not as melodic or rhythmic or super-heroish than Danny Elfman's Batman theme but I think it suited perfectly to the darkness and oppressiveness of Gotham before Batman brings a little light to the city.

Biggest pops from the audience I was sitting with - the double slap out of nowhere by Rachel to Bruce in the car, first appearance by Batman in Falcone's warehouse, Lucius's line to Earle at the end "What, you didn't get the memo?" and of course the Joker card which had people going "Wo!". Almost everyone applauded when the end credits started. My favorite line though had to be exchange between Gordon and Batman "There's only one of you" and Batman replies "Now there are two of us". That perfectly exemplified what these two men, so different and yet so similar, have in the comics but which is left out in the earlier Batman films as unimportant.

The only cons are the character of Rachel which seemed like just another excuse to have a love interest (which I don't think a Batman movie neccessarily needs) and shoe-horning her into both Bruce's childhood, the DA's office prosecuting Falcone, needing protection from Crane etc. just smacked out damsel-in-distress syndrome. Bruce revealing who he was (although never actually saying it) was a tad unbelievable to me as well. I also noticed the same (shiny) green car she drove Bruce off in the beginning is the same (STILL shiny) green car she's driving seven whole years later. That must be some car!10. All in all I dearly hope WB had Nolan, Goyer, Bale, Oldman and Caine tied down to more than just 3 picture deals. Given Bale's young age, they can keep this particular Batman franchise going for more just 4 pictures and I would look forward to one of these coming out every 2-3 years or so. Nolan's a smart cookie too, unlike the mistakes in the past with killing the villains, the Scarecrow is alive at the end, Arkham is emptied (thus explaining why Gotham is home to the crazy villains) and Ra's probably survived. I would love to see Talia (Ra's devoted daughter and, besides Catwoman, the only woman in the comics to have Bruce's heart - as opposed to Batman's - for more than just a couple of issues) in one of the next 2 films.

The film has it all, action, drama and a good one-liner every now and then. The directing is fluid and the script is tight. The supporting cast actually support instead of focusing the attention on themselves and Bale is definitely now a top-tier star who has more than shown himself capable of not only being a fine actor (which he's been since he was a child) but one capable of carrying a blockbuster film by himself. Chris Nolan has grown from the relatively small-budget of Memento to now doing justice to a hundred-million dollar budget and creating a work of art. A comic book film that stands on its own as an action drama even if you've never heard of Batman before (if such people exist). Nolan has just catapulted himself to A-List director with this film, just as Peter Jackson did with the Lord of the Rings films.

Its a terrific film that more than meets the hype. If I was into rating films by stars (which I absolutely refuse to do) I would give it four stars of out four.

Haiku #16 - For Tom Cruise Mapother IV


Written on 10:01 AM by Jack B.

Having lost his mind
Tom-Tom, L. Ron's son, has spun
Out of cruise control

In Memory of the Real Riddler - Frank Gorshin


Written on 9:07 AM by Jack B.

With Batman Begins opening tomorrow, I though I'd reflect on the death of Frank Gorshin a few weeks ago. Gorshin was a talented actor, comic and impersonator who was on Broadway just a little while ago in a one-man show as George Burns (and portrayed himself in a cameo in the season finale of C.S.I. that aired just after his death). But he will no doubt be associated forever with a role he played just a handful of times - that of "The Riddler" in the Batman TV show starring Adam West (and the movie of the same name).

Unlike almost every villain on the show such as Caesar Romero's "Joker" or Burgess Meredith's "penguin", Gorshin didn't over-play the role to make what was literally a comic book villain into even more of a caricature. Gorshin's Riddler had a hidden steel and menace not found among other enemies of TV's Caped Crusader. Unlike the others, Gorshin didn't look like he was playing dress-up in a costume ball but actually looked and sounded like a real criminal - and a dangerous one at that.

Today, even people who don't read comics know that the Riddler is one of Batman's arch-foes, but that wasn't always the case. It was the TV show's producers who rought him back after an absence of many years in the comics - he had become too ridiculous for even the comic books to take seriously and so what better place to use such an absurd character than a show that made its name (and ratings) based on how over-the-top camp it was.

Yet Gorshin made the Riddler such a believable and (better yet) interesting foe for Batman that he became a viable member of Batman's Rogues Gallery and remains there to this day (almost 40 years later) . As a matter of fact, the comic-Riddler of today is largely Gorshin-esque in mannerisms rather than Jim Carrey's more recent cartoon-ish turn as the character (the fact that so many comic writers and artists of today probably grew up with Gorshin's interpretation probably had a lot to do with it too).

It wasn't an accident that of all the big name guest stars during Batman's two-year run, Gorshin was the only one to receive an Emmy nomination. And still all these years later Gorshin's acting still holds him in a show that has been mocked and abused and parodied into the ground. Of all the actors who have played Batman's villains on live-action TV or film (well I haven't seen Batman Returns yet so the jury is still out on that) including Jack Nicholson, Danny DeVito and Governor Arnie, it is Frank Gorshin who set the standard. Frank Gorshin WAS The Riddler. You were one of a kind, Frank. . All Batman fans will miss you. But at least you leave us Edward Ngma (aka The Riddler) behind as a legacy.

This doesn't bode well for a good Da Vinci Code movie...


Written on 10:11 PM by Jack B.

Ron Howard's Cinderella Man is getting rave reviews all over the place and I suppose thats to be expected. In my opinion despite the fact Russell Crowe is like off-screen, on-screen he's one of the greatest movie actors in the world today. And when he want to be Ron Howard can be both a moving, emotional and excellent director - I'm a big fan of Willow, Parenthood, and Apollo 13. Howard can also, however, be a king of popular big-budget schlock like How the Grinch Stole Christmas and overblown glorified TV-Movies like A Beautiful Mind (which somehow won the Best Picture Oscar). Its too soon to tell what the movie version of the Da Vince Code will be like (besides the virulent anti-Catholicism basic to the book) but Howard's past twisting of history to suit him does not bode well. In Beautiful Mind, he and screenwriter Akiva Goldsman side-stepped and ignored facts about protagonist John Nash's like the fact he was married several times in the past (and not just to his movie wife), he had several hetero and homosexual affairs, while married, and also he fathered a child out-of-wedlock in his twenties. Putting things like that in would have made Nash a more complicated character (just like in real life) but it also didn't go with the "image" Howard wanted to show about his film's "hero" so they were cut.

Now in Cinderella Man, Howard has again changed history to suit his needs and in the process has ruined the name of a good man and former Heavyweight Champion of the World ( and the man "Cinderella's" hero, James Braddock beat for the title), Max Baer Sr, who's dead so he can't respond.

From the San Jose Mercury News: `Cinderella Man' does Baer an injustice, some say

Everyone agrees that James J. Braddock, the hero of ``Cinderella Man,'' was a good guy. But was Max Baer, the man Braddock defeated for the heavyweight title, a villain?

The movie paints Baer as a one-dimensional bad character. But Bert Sugar and Larry Merchant, two longtime observers of the fight trade, say the film does Baer an injustice.

Baer did kill one opponent in the ring. Another later died from boxing injuries, perhaps incurred in part during a fight with Baer. Both Merchant and Sugar also agree the film accurately captures how Baer could be a clown in the ring.

``But he wasn't a bad guy at all,'' said Merchant, an HBO boxing commentator. ``He was one of the predecessors to Muhammad Ali as a guy who loved the media. He was a big, handsome guy who loved the ladies.''

Sugar believes filmmaker Ron Howard needed to make Baer look like a thug so Braddock could be perceived as more gallant.

``The truth didn't work to their end, so they Hollywood-ized the story,'' Sugar said.

Something else doesn't ring true, he added. He called the real Braddock-Baer bout ``the worst heavyweight championship fight in history.'' He said Baer threw the only punch of consequence - and it was by accident. Braddock, a huge underdog, won the close decision by outjabbing Baer.

``But Ron Howard isn't going to make a movie where two guys stand there like Madame Tussaud's wax works types,'' Sugar said.

From The Lima News (of Ohio): Some Baer facts on ‘Cinderella Man’s’ Max

Forty-six years after his death, Max Baer is getting the worst reviews of his life.
Baer was a high, wide and handsome character who, in the 1930s, won and lost boxing’s biggest prize in the space of 364 days, laughing all the while.
Now he’s back, bigger — and meaner — than life in “Cinderella Man,” director Ron Howard’s heart-tugging story of Jim Braddock, who fought to feed his family in the depths of the Depression and ended up taking the heavyweight championship from Baer 70 years ago next week.

“Cinderella Man” has been called everything from a true-life “Rocky” to “Seabiscuit” on two legs to perhaps the best movie of the year, and it might be all of the above. “Cinderella Man” is the feel-good hit of the season — except to the family, fans and friends of Max Baer.

Baer was an impressive figure of a man with a devastating right hand. In the movie, he’s portrayed by Craig Bierko as an arrogant, trash-talking bully. In reviews, Philip Wuntch of the Dallas Morning News referred to “the infamous Baer” and Chris Hewitt of the St. Paul Pioneer Press to “brutal Max Baer.” Christy Lemire of The Associated Press called Bierko’s performance “convincingly slimy” and Robert W. Butler of the Kansas City Star described Baer as “a testosterone-fueled brute.”

Following the script, reviewers have accepted the idea that Baer killed two men in the ring. As for the first, there is ample evidence that Baer, though cleared of any wrongdoing, was deeply remorseful. His second “victim” fought four more times after meeting Baer, dying months later after being knocked out by Primo Carnera.

The movie stretches the tenuous notion of Baer the killer until it loses touch with reality. In a nightclub scene before the climactic fight, a leering, sneering Baer suggests he might kill Braddock, too, and then “comfort” his widow. Jer-emy Schaap’s recent book on Braddock and Baer, which coincidentally shares a title with the movie, gives no indica-tion that such an encounter ever took place. Baer’s son, actor Max Baer Jr., labeled the scene “a lie.”

Nobody who knew Baer would recognize the thug in the movie. To sportswriters, he was Madcap Maxie, the good-time champ. Schaap describes him as a charmer, a wisecracker, a guy who “more than anything else, … liked to make people laugh.”

The only reason anybody ever got mad at Max was that they thought he should be the greatest heavyweight ever, and he wasn’t. He preferred chasing women and living the high life to sweating away in a smelly gym. If that makes Max Baer a bad guy, I guess I’m a bad guy too.

Trouble is, just as a movie needs a hero, it needs a heavy. In this case, the real villain is the Depression. But cine-matically, that’s pretty abstract. As Braddock (Russell Crowe) observes in the film, “There’s no point punching things you can’t see.”

So that leaves Baer.

Another article from Slate: How Cinderella Man sucker punches the Jewish boxer Max Baer. By David Fellerath about Baer's Jewish heritage of which he was proud.

And of course, there's the reaction of former Jethro from The Beverly Hillbillies, Max Baer Jr., who is justifably upset - Son raises dukes over Baer 'facts'

TV's Jethro is fightin' mad about his father's portrayal in Russell Crowe's
Cinderella Man.Max Baer Jr., who starred in The Beverly Hillbillies and was
named after his prizefighter pop, says Cinderella director Ron Howard unfairly
pounded his dad in the biopic of Depression-era boxer James J. Braddock, the New
York Daily News reports.Baer Jr. bristles at how the movie portrays his father
as a thug who glories in killing two opponents in the ring.

"That's a lie," Baer Jr. tells the Daily News. "My
father cried about what happened to (Baer ring victim) Frankie Campbell. He had
nightmares. He helped put Frankie's children through college." But Howard
spokeswoman Leslee Dart defends the characterization, saying the elder Baer
needed to be vilified, you know, for artistic purposes:"The script was written
from the point of view of the Braddock family. To them, Max Baer was a real

Here's a good review that points out the wrong done Baer even while acknowledging the film's better points:
“Cinderella Man” Winner by a Split Decision

However, in turning up the anticipation volume as Jimmy Braddock begins his quest out of the slums and into heavyweight title contention, the filmmakers thought it advantageous to make the reigning champ a villain.

Therefore Max Baer, generally credited with killing two opponents in the ring, is portrayed as a monster on several levels: Not only will he kill you, but also insult your wife, and with a lascivious tone yet. Adding insult to injury, a marvelous Craig Bierko is entirely convincing as the baddy.

But go home after the film, pull out the old boxing encyclopedia, and you'll find neither the words killer nor lout next to Mr. Baer's name. In fact, most pundits of pugilism agree that the guy was pretty likeable, that he actually didn't take anything too seriously…that if he did, he might have had a more memorable championship.

In other words, the fix is in.

It isn't as much a moral question as it is one of form and protocol. We want our screenwriters to mine the real drama, not apply some expedient. What if the film were about Mr. Baer instead of Mr. Braddock? Could we then rely on the depiction of Mr. Braddock

The point I'm trying to make in all this is that if Ron Howard is willing to blacken an actual historical (and innocent) man to make his story points, imagine what he'd do with Dan Brown's pseudo-history (which is basically fiction with a few dashes of facts thrown in to make it seem believable)in The Da Vinci Code movie in which the Catholic Church in particular and historical orthodox Christians in general are seen as liar, murderers, and just plain evil. Uh oh. Something tells me that even with Tom Hanks starring this is not something I'm going to want to watch.

Accepted Wisdom Part 3


Written on 5:56 PM by Jack B.

Following up on this post and this one, there have been many recent posts and articles elsewhere refuting the "accepted wisdom" the Catholic Church is responsible for AIDS in Africa (and elsewhere).
Fighting AIDS in Mozambique - Making a difference. By Adam Graham-Silverman in of all places Slate deals with the success of the Franciscans and the Sant'Egdio community, against at times the goverment of Mozambique itself, to reduce AIDS and help sufferers.

At Tech Central Station is the article, Was Karol Wojtyla the Greatest Mass Murderer of the 20th Century? by Michael Cook tackles that question head on and totally demolishes the accusations of the late Pope's critics.


But there is something absurdly medieval about making the Pope a scapegoat, as if the clouds would break and the sun shine if we thrust enough pins through a JP2 voodoo doll. Pinning such blame for the tragedy of African AIDS on one man is one of those ideas that is, in the words of George Orwell, "so stupid that only intellectuals could believe them."

Two doubtful ideas run through all these criticisms. The first is basically this: African Catholics are so devout that if they have sex outside of marriage, dally with prostitutes or take a third wife, they will piously refrain from using condoms because the Great White Father told them not to. Ms. Toynbee darkly invokes "the Vatican's deeper power... its personal authority over 1.3 billion worshippers, which is strongest over the poorest, most helpless devotees."

But she can't have it both ways: these benighted dark-skinned Catholics can't be both too goody-two-shoes to use condoms and too wicked to resist temptation. Journalist Brendan O'Neill -- who describes himself as an ex-Catholic who has jettisoned Catholic teaching on sexual morality -- sums up this patronising argument in the on-line journal Spiked: "The only reason you could believe the fantastically simplistic idea that Vatican edict = AIDS in Africa is if you consider Africans to be little more than automatons... who do as they are told".

Superimposing maps of prevalence of AIDS on prevalence of Catholicism is enough to sink the link between the Catholic Church and AIDS. In the hospice which is Swaziland nowadays, only about 5 per cent of the population is Catholic. In Botswana, where 37 per cent of the adult population is HIV infected, only 4 per cent of the population is Catholic. In South Africa, 22 per cent of the population is HIV infected, and only 6 per cent is Catholic. But in Uganda, with 43 per cent of the population Catholic, the proportion of HIV infected adults is 4 per cent.

In fact, without the Catholic Church the situation might be much worse. The AIDS disaster in Africa weighed heavily on the Pope. Ten years ago he appealed to "the world's scientists and political leaders, moved by the love and respect due to every human person, to use every means available in order to put an end to this scourge". And Catholics have responded.

About 27 per cent of health care for HIV/AIDS victims is provided by Church organisations and Catholic NGOs, as even The Lancet has acknowledged. They form a vast network of clinics which reach the poorest, most remote and most neglected people in Africa.
From Australia's Herald Sun is this column by Andrew Bolt:
Pope spoke the truth -

Spooky, how fast our intellectual class agreed on a way to damn this much-mourned Pope without actually seeming to prance on his grave.In Australia, this new slur, this fashionable falsehood, was best put by the Women's Electoral Lobby's Sarah Maddison."There is little doubt that under this Pope's leadership the Vatican's line, particularly on the use of condoms in Africa, has caused the death of thousands of people," she smirked.

The Pope. A murderer.How delicious.

So delicious, that SBS and Fairfax journalists just had to repeat it, insisting the Pope killed thousands -- wait, millions -- of Africans by banning condoms in the fight against AIDS.It's as if they read from the same manual, Chants for Leftists, now in its international truth-free edition. In Britain, same false story. The cover story of the prestigious New Statesman magazine slavered how the dead Pope "did more to spread AIDS in Africa than prostitution and the trucking industry combined".

Gay activist PeterTatchell, of Outrage, snapped: "Millions of people in developing countries areorphans, having lost their parents to AIDS because of the Pope's anti-condom dogma." Ditto The Independent: "It should not be forgotten that millions
have died in Africa as a result of this theological rigidity."
In France, the Liberation newspaper declared: "Blindness in the face of AIDS." And so on and on.

I've listed so many examples to show how common it is for the Left,particularly the Leftist press, to believe the convenient lie -- the foul smear-- even when that lie defies good sense and easy-to-find facts. Once again, the Truth is more vital than the truth to Leftists, which is why their own dogmas are so deadly.

It is a fact that Pope John Paul II opposed condoms, telling
African bishops again not long before his death that "fidelity within marriage and abstinence outside are the only sure ways to limit the further spread of AIDS infection".

So is this the advice that killed millions? First, to believe that we must believe Africans are so obedient to the Pope that they won't wear a condom, but also so disobedient that they'll still have casual sex. We'd also have to believe that more were killed by having unprotected sex outside marriage than were saved by doing as the Pope said and zipping up. We must further believe that most or very many Africans are Catholic, and are hit hardest by AIDS.

Naturally, the truth is the very opposite.The countries with the worst HIV infection rates in the world turn out to be Swaziland and Botswana, where more than a third of adults have the virus -- but only 5 per cent are Catholic. Botswana, incidentally, is pro-condoms, not that it seems to have helped much. In contrast, Uganda, where half the people are Catholic, is the one African country that has slashed its rate of infection -- from a devastating 15 per cent of all adults to "just" 5 per cent. And, heavens, it worked this miracle by doing much as the Pope had preached.

and I think Mr. Bolt also hit on the head what really drives these accusations:
And why their anger? Because Christianity, or any philosophy that preaches restraint, responsibility and a respect for facts, threatens their freedoms, such as their freedom to have sex with whomever they choose.

So, yes, the Pope was indeed the killer they fear -- not of the poor and faithful in Africa, but of the cheaper pleasures of the faithless right here. And for those now slandering this holy man, that is by far the greater sin.

Finally, The Anchoress has a deeply moving personal post about the relationship between the Church and AIDS that must be read in full to be properly appreciated.

The Pot calling the Kettle "Black"


Written on 5:38 PM by Jack B.

From CWN, Italian paper slammed for promoting Inquisition "black legend" :

Italian journalist Vittorio Messori responded this week to an article inthe Communist daily Il Manifesto that portrays as truthful the "black legend" about the Inquisition that hundreds of thousands or even millions were killed by
the Church.

In a column translated from Italian by the Spanish daily La Razon , Messori maintains that "the imprudence-- or shamelessness-- of these ideologies never ceases to amaze me. A publicist named Adriano Petta published an article called 'The Skeletons of the Holy Inquisition.' Deja vu, of course. We're talking about two and half centuries ago."

According to Messori, the article "would not be worth reading were it not for the fact that it was published in Il Manifesto , one of the two or three newspapers in the entire Western world that still carries the title 'Communist daily' on the front page."Messori noted that many other historical publications have been more precisein their accounts. "Just one year of the French Revolution, the reign of terror of 1793, left more victims than all of the centuries of all the inquisitions combined (the Protestants, in fact, did not fool around: the Geneva of Calvin was lit up by the bonfires, Lutheran Germany engaged in witch hunts as if they were a national sport; the last massacre encouraged by the Puritan pastors of Salem, Massachusetts, came at the threshold of 1800.)"

Messori noted as well that the number of victims of the Communist regimes of the last century reached the hundreds of millions, all in the name of stamping out "deviations" from political "orthodoxy." "It's difficult, therefore, to take seriously the preaching that issues forth from certain pulpits," Messori said.

The noted Italian journalist pointed out that an analysis of the modern historical data on the Inquisition, including information from the Vatican archives opened underthen-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, would be of very much benefit to the Church."Many pillars of the Black Legend would fall," revealing a process characterizedby an accuracy and a fairness "unheard of in the civil courts of that time.""Death sentences and torture were the exception," Messori explains, noting
that the typical images people have of the Inquisition were based on Protestant propaganda aimed at undermining Spain's dominance in the Atlantic.

For the Communists, the largest group of mass murderers in the last century, with the blood of millions on their hands wherever they assumed power to dig up the largely refuted by Henry Kamen and Edward Peters (among other), "Black Legend" of the Inquisition of centuries ago is hypocrisy at its highest. If more people read The Black Book of Communism, detailing all the murders of the Communist regimes of the 20th Century, the Communists wouldn't dare to spread untruths about others.

The State of the Church in Europe


Written on 5:05 PM by Jack B.

Zenit has a story about a new books thats says the U.N. and European Union are using double standards when it comes to Christianity: Christianity Out in the Cold


The authors, Eugenia Roccella and Lucetta Scaraffia, contend that the changes described in the human rights field are notable. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights proclaimed by the United Nations in 1948 made no mention of "reproductive rights." A key reason why this changed, argues the book, lies in the cultural upheaval of the 1960s. Those years witnessed a sort of "cultural revolution" not only in the area of sexuality, but also in the very concept of rights.

In the wake of the upheaval, the book states, sexual activity became divorced from its link with procreation, the idea of individual autonomy was exalted, human life was reduced to mere biological material to be manipulated in the laboratory, and humanity tried to construct a new utopia based on the satisfaction of sexual desires. In turn, this utopian vision was increasingly imposed on Third World countries by international organizations, often forcibly, by linking the reproductive rights program to financial aid.

International institutions see the Catholic Church, along with some other religious groups, as a threat to this way of conceiving rights. As well, the Church's position on some women's issues, such as the refusal to admit them to the priesthood, has made it a target of strong criticism. This culminated, the book observes, in the European Union's refusal to even acknowledge the Christian heritage in Europe in the preface of the new Constitution
From the National Catholic Register: Is the Faith Dead in France? Not Quite... by Sabrina Arena Ferrisi

French men and women who call themselves “Catholic” constitute about 70% of the population. Only 8% to 10% of the Catholic population goes to Sunday Mass, compared to 40% to 45% in the 1960s.

But the situation is far from hopeless, given that the 10% of French Catholics that do practice numbers 6 million persons.

“They represent the practicing Catholics who are truly faithful, who transmit their faith to their children. This is a reason for hope which is very important,” said Caroline Bouan, a journalist with Famille Chrétienne (The Christian Family) magazine. “These Catholics are very attached to their faith. They know why they are practicing their faith. They try to fill their shortcomings through catechism, prayer, etc. These lay people are more involved in their parishes and in Catholic movements throughout the Church.”

This new “minority” lives in a difficult environment. This year marks the centenary of the formal separation of Church and state in France — a separation often referred to as “laicism,” whereby religion is something strictly personal. The state avoids anything to do with religion.

To put things in perspective, when Pope John Paul II died, the U.S. government ordered flags to be flown at half-mast for seven days. In France, flags were flown at half- mast for only one day.

And even that one day sparked protests. “This created a big scandal,” said Miriam Bellecca, an American living in Paris. ”Left-wing politicians went on the news saying that there was no excuse for such an action.”

“It was a huge controversy,” confirmed Antoine-Marie Izoard, Vatican correspondent for I. Media, a Catholic French press agency. “If you look at the condolence letter which President [Jacques] Chirac sent, he wrote that ‘for those who believe in God’ the loss of Pope John Paul II was great. Chirac’s personal position, as one who doesn’t believe, was very clear. It reflects this way of seeing the Church as something bad.”

Bellecca recalled an incident where her brother-in-law wore a wooden cross in school. His teacher lifted him up by his shirt collar and warned him to never wear it again.

“I’m not sure this is anti-Catholicism per se,” Bellecca said, “or just an absurd attachment to the fact that France is ‘laicist.’ The French just want to keep religion out of the public sphere and would go equally crazy to see a boy wearing a [yarmulke] or a girl with a headscarf.

“In France, the emphasis is on being equal and not different. They say diversity only leads to ghettos and discrimination,” added Bellecca.

The brave Archbishop of Denver speaks out in Denver: Denver's Chaput flogs Europe, saying it is forsaking Christianity


Chaput was among nine members of a State Department delegation led by New York Gov. George Pataki. The two-day conference, "Anti-Semitism and Other Forms of Intolerance," in Cordoba, Spain, was sponsored by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.

In his address, Chaput traced Europe's Christian roots and decried abandonment of that heritage by the continent's prevailing culture.

Secularism has been a growing influence in Europe. The European Union's constitution makes no mention of the continent's Christian heritage. There also is momentum to extend euthanasia laws and marriage rights to gay couples.

Chaput cited legal restrictions of religious expression and open contempt of religious symbols.

"Programs like How To Cook a Crucifix (a show aired on Spanish TV last December), and sacramental confessions recorded without the confessor's knowledge are deeply contemptuous of Catholic believers," Chaput said.

"This is unworthy of Europe's moral dignity and religious heritage. Furthermore, it stands in stark contrast to OSCE commitments to promote religious freedom."

Chaput said "an equally dangerous trend" was state-encouraged ridicule and intolerance of public expressions of faith, often derided as fundamentalism.

And of course the final vote is in and the Italian fertility referendum has failed in a big way, thanks to Church efforts.

Congratulations to a "Controversial" Cardinal


Written on 4:27 PM by Jack B.

My favorite cardinal, George Pell of Sydney, has been honored in the Queen's Birthday Honours List giving him the Aussie equivalent of a knighthood.


Cardinal Pell, one of seven people to receive the highest Australian award in the Queens birthday honours list, is among the most controversial churchmen of modern times.

"Yes, there has been some controversy," said Cardinal Pell, who stood aside as Archbishop of Sydney three years ago when he was accused - and later cleared - of sexually abusing an altar boy at a church camp in 1961.

"But a little bit of controversy is better than being ignored.

"I am deeply honoured by this recognition, both personally and for the Catholic Church," he said on being appointed a Companion of the Order of Australia (AC).

"It is a recognition of the Catholic contribution to Australian life, and I am also grateful for this," said the archbishop, who since the dark days of 2002 has been appointed Australia's seventh cardinal, has gone to Rome to help elect a new Pope and now has been awarded a Queen's Birthday honour.

Cardinal Pell, once described as having a "hide several rhinoceroses thick" has angered many progressives with his insistence that basic church teachings are non-negotiable.

The Ballarat-born archbishop, who chose the priesthood over a football career with AFL club Richmond, consistently refused communion to openly gay parishioners and once called homosexuality "a greater health hazard than smoking".

He angered feminists by opposing female priests, and opposed access to in-vitro fertilisation for single women.

Gay rights and pro-choice activists demonstrated against his appointment as Sydney archbishop by bearing placards reading: "George Pell, Go To Hell".

The archbishop entered the education debate in the last federal election, saying Labor's planned redistribution of funds between non-government schools was "potentially divisive" and "regrettable".

He offered to appeal for clemency if any of the "Bali nine" Australians arrested for drug smuggling are convicted and given the death penalty, and to take their case to new Pope Benedict XVI.

And he criticised the federal government's immigration policies as "too tough" when commenting on the case of Vivian Alvarez, wrongly deported four years ago and later found in a Catholic hospice in the Philippines.

The thing I think I like most about him is that he doesn't hide away from media descriptions of him as "controversial" or "uncompromising" but glories in them and makes no bones about the fact that some things are "non-negotiable" no matter how much pressure is put on him or the Church. Just take a look at how he deals with the description in an interview done in light of his honor.
PETER CAVE: Personally you have sometimes been criticised for your uncompromising view, particularly on moral issues, do you think this award is a vindication of that uncompromising attitude?

GEORGE PELL: Not necessarily. I think it's a vindication that the Christian point of view is one of the legitimate points of view in Australian society. I don't think the award is anything more than that, but I think it is that.

PETER CAVE: Your own biographer has described you as a controversial churchman, perhaps the most controversial churchman in Australia. Do you shrink away from that?

GEORGE PELL: Um, I think I'd have quite a bit of competition for that title, perhaps even from the Anglican Archbishop of Sydney, but no, I don't shrink from the title. I hope I present Christ's teachings in the Catholic tradition. I try to do that as effectively as I can.

Of course not every one is happy about it. The website 365Gay.com plays the story this way: Queen's List Honors Cardinal Who Refused Gays Communion

All of a Sudden the Catholic Church is "Powerful"


Written on 1:43 AM by Jack B.

The Catholic Church has taken a beating in recent years (some of it well deserved). I remember that either Newsweek or Time had a headline in the midst of the worst of the Boston Scandal that went, "Can the Catholic Church Survive?". Well, obviously it has. But it doesn't have the moral authority or the power it once had. Just look at all the Canadian and American politicos who routinely not only disagree with the Church but seem to go out of their way to say so (i.e. Jean Chretien, Paul Martin, John Kerry, Mario Cuomo, etc.). So it was with surprise that I saw this AFP article, via The Curt Jester, that says: Low turnout in Italian fertility referendum after Church urges boycott. The line that caught my attention was the very first -

With less than one out of five Italians casting their ballot, Italy appeared set
to keep its tough assisted procreation law after the powerful Roman Catholic
called for a boycott to scuttle the two-day referendum.

Which leads me to ask - since when is the Catholic Church "powerful" in Italy or any other European country outside of Poland? Haven't we been told over and over that the Church is basically meaningless and marginalized in secular Europe, even in Italy, where it couldn't overturn the abortion and divorce laws via similar referendums? Aren't we always told the Church is basically ignored by Catholics (especially in the West) when it comes to anything to do remotely to sex and sexual reproduction? Haven't we been told the Church is out of touch and must change its tune if it wants to influence society? Doesn't sound very "powerful" to me. Yet, now that the refrendum shows signs it is failing and that Italians (against everything we've been told in the past) are actually heeding Church calls to abstain from voting - it is "powerful". Ironic, no?

Of course if the refrendum passes and the law is changed to the media's satisfaction then the Church will have "blown its capital" and shown further signs of its irrelevance and we will be reading on how much of a political "loss" it is to Pope Benedict and the Church. Don't think so? Take a look at this via another wire service, UPI: Analysis: Italy birth referendum stirs debate -
Italians go to the polls this weekend to vote in a national referendum. No, it's not another vote on the European Union constitution, but it has created a political storm both in the conservative coalition of Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi and in the left-of-center opposition. It is also a test of the residual influence of the Catholic Church and its new pope in a country where it was once all powerful.

Go that? In one article it says the Catholic Church is "powerful" and thats why the vote is turning out the way it has so far. But in another it was "once" powerful. I really wish they would make up their minds. But I think the real truth is that the wire services (from which most US Vatican news sources comes from) are setting up for an either/or case with the Italian refrendum. I don't think they actually thought a few months ago that the Church's abstention policy would work. But now that it has a chance, if the vote fails they can blame the "powerful" Church and its mindless followers and if it succeeds its a triumph of progress over a "once all-powerful" Church. Either way the script is already written out ahead of time.

Another interesting thing is in the UPI article is the final passages with one laugh out-loud quote:
The Italian left is worried that the referendum has become a fight over the
church's influence in Italy. Piero Fassino, secretary of the Left Democrats said
Thursday, "There is maximum respect for the position of the Catholic Church, but
the duty of the state is not to abide by religious, philosophical, or ethical
beliefs. Its duty is to provide citizens with laws granting freedom of choice."
A positive vote "can make more children be born, and be born better, making it
safer for them and for the mother," Fassino said. "Thus from this point of view,
it is pro-life."
So let me get this straight. This guy, Signor Fassino, says the Left has "maximum respect for the Church" but at the same time says it should shut up and not speak out to its members. Thats not respect in my eyes. If Signor Fassino doesn't have the votes, that's his problem, not the Church. And wasn't the Italian Left behind most of the anti-clerical (i.e. anti-Catholic) laws in Italy from 1870 to the present? This "respect" must be a new thing. I also love how they claim to be "pro-life" when it suits them. It reminds me a little of some politicians (we all know who they are) who claim to be "pro-life" but who never met an aborted fetus, a death row inmate, or a disabled Terri Shiavo that they didn't think would be better off dead. One of the things I like about the Catholic Church as opposed to its critics is that when it says it's "pro-life" it actually is - in ALL cases. No picking and choosing what you like and discarding what you don't (something that sadly applies across the political divide in the US).

There's also a historical inaccuracy in the article. Can't the reporter be bothered to do homework in his expert "analysis"? -
But the political fireworks have overshadowed what many regard as the larger issue of the church's campaign. The Italian bishops have lost two previous major battles. They failed to block the introduction of divorce in the 1970s; and a decade later they were equally unsuccessful in halting the legalization of abortion. Their battle plan gives them two chances of success -- rejection of the four amendments, or cancellation of the referendum. But to get there the church will have encouraged Italians to fail to do their civic duty -- and that's a dangerous precedent.
It would set a "dangerous"(not very objective, is he?) precendent by encouraging Catholic not to vote? Whatever happened to Pius IX's Non Expedit, forbidding Italian Catholics to vote in Italian elections AT ALL and which lasted (with some modifications) from 1870 to World War I - a total of over 40 years! But all of a sudden NOW a "dangerous precedent" would be set? I can do more accurate "analysis" than that!